The Accidental Technology Journalist
My career path hung on one simple question. I had been out of college for about a year, having left the tree-shrouded confines of Northwest Arkansas for the steel and cement constructs of the Los Angeles area. I sat at a shared desk in a small, windowless room with several other editorial assistants at Entrepreneur magazine, a small-business-focused publication that had been around since the hot-tub days of the ’70s. It was the late ’90s, long before iPhones and tablets and Twitter.
An editor popped her head into the room and asked innocently, “Who here wants to write about technology?” I looked up from my fact-checking assignment long enough to see all the other editorial assistants glance away, trying to not make eye contact. I raised my hand. “I like technology,” I said, thinking about playing “Scarab of Ra” on my dad’s classic Mac.
I didn’t know AP style; I knew iambic pentameter.
I had never taken a journalism class in my life. I didn’t work for the school paper; I edited my high school’s literary journal. I didn’t know AP style; I knew iambic pentameter. But there I was, Entrepreneur’s newly minted Assistant Technology Editor.
My presence in that office was unexpected to begin with. I moved to the LA area right after graduation to be near family, but the job hunt was slow. I even applied for a job with Ronco, known for “As Seen on TV” items like the Veg-o-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman.
Entrepreneur was the first place to call me in for an interview. I brushed up on my proofreaders’ marks and thumbed through a copy of the magazine, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around working there, checking facts and catching typos, until the company actually hired me.
I got my degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. I wrote poetry and songs, pored over Carl Sandburg, and devoured mystery novels. Suddenly, I had to learn how to write coherently about megabytes, laser printers, and dot-coms back when “dot-coms” was a thing. I did it because I was ready to get out of the fact-checking grind and it came with a tiny pay raise over the $20,000 I was making per year at the bottom of the magazine staff food chain.
The awesome editorial staff Entrepreneur had at the time was patient with me as I learned the ropes and worked on building my reporting skills. Since becoming a freelancer in 2008, I have written about technology for clients including Restaurant Business Magazine, Albuquerque Business First, IBM, AOL, and CNET. These days, I mostly cover beats like geek culture, space news, and anything that has to do with “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.” It’s the sort of writing that makes me thrilled to get to my computer in the morning.
I had no illusions about making a living as a poet after college, but I definitely hadn’t expected to become a technology journalist. My life might have taken a very different path if I had been out sick or taking a bathroom break the day the editor came calling. All it took was a simple request from an editor looking to replace a departing staff member to start me on a journey that continues today. In the meantime, if you have any killer “Star Wars” story tips, hit me up.
Photos courtesy of Amanda C. Kooser.
And we were very glad you said yes.